New Tier 2 immigration rules won't help with cyber security shortage

The statement of changes to UK immigration rules published in 29 October 2015, specifically paragraph K2 of page 43, states that the occupation 'cyber-security specialist' will be added to the official skills shortage list from November 19 2015. However, despite the addition of this occupation and a few other IT related occupations to the list, it seems that many companies will not meet the "qualifying company" requirements to obtain tier 2 visas under the new scheme. The chronic shortage of cyber security skills professionals in the UK is likely to continue. For many companies unable to meet the "qualifying company" requirements the only option is to undergo the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) to show that there is a shortage of people able to do the work.

Tier 2 Visa Shortage Occupation List

Following recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), UK immigration decides on the shortage occupation list. Employers offering a job role that's on the shortage occupation list are not required to advertise vacancies, which is one of the requirements of the Resident Labour Market Test. However, in this case you also need to be a "qualifying company" which as has already been said can be difficult.

Tier 2 Visa Resident Labour Market Test

Usually employers need to apply under the Resident Labour Market Test that requires employers who are offering a job in the Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa categories - that's not on the shortage occupation list - to advertise a job for 28 days to show that a suitable worker could not be found to fill a vacancy.

However, companies need to "jump through hoops" to become a "qualifying company" to employ people under this tier 2 visa scheme.

Tier 2 Qualifying company scheme

The Qualifying company scheme makes it easier for some businesses to obtain Tier 2 visas in the digital technology sector in the occupations product manager, data scientist, senior developer and cyber security specialist. If the business becomes a 'qualifying company' this would make them exempt from having to advertise for 28 days to recruit non-EU workers. However, it seems that it will be difficult for many companies to meet the requirements to become a qualifying company.

In order to qualify for an advertising waiver, companies need to meet certain criteria. First, they must acquire a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence to recruit non-EU workers holding a Tier 2 Visa. Secondly, should a company employ less than 20 personnel, they're required to provide a letter from UKTI supporting the application. Otherwise the company needs to employ between 20 and 250 people.

These criteria must be met before a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) is granted that would allow them to recruit from outside of the EU. Additionally, if relevant, to be a qualifying company, ownership of that company by a larger organisation, which has one or more establishments in the UK and more than 250 staff in one of the establishments, cannot exceed 25%.

For instance, should a start-up business receive an angel investment from a global IT company, they wouldn't qualify for the advertising waiver if the investor employs over 250 people in one establishment in the UK.

The company must not have been established in the UK for the purpose of supplying services exclusively to a single company or company group in the UK. The company cannot have more than ten immigrants working for the company under the Tier 2 General visa scheme under the "Qualifying Company" scheme.

Further requirements for Tier 2 Visa Qualifying Company

Eligibility for the advertising waiver also requires an employer to acquire and retain references of migrant workers for the last five years as evidence that they have the necessary skills and experience to work as a cyber-security specialist. Industry analysts say that this requirement is 'ridiculous, especially when most references only detail dates of employment for legal purposes.' Many employers may have difficulty meeting this requirement.

It remains to be seen whether the new qualifying company scheme for Tier 2 immigration will do much to help the recruitment of cyber-security specialists from outside the EU. In many cases it will be easier to come under Resident Labour Market scheme and advertise a vacancy for the 28 day period.

Shortage of IT professionals in the UK

The changes to Tier 2 immigration rules will do little to address the UK's growing need for cyber-security specialists and others in the IT sector. Only some companies will be able to come under the scheme and there are only four occupations that come under the scheme.

Government pledges to bring in Cyber Security Experts

In 2013, UK defence secretary, Philip Hammond pledged to take on 'hundreds' of cyber-security experts to serve as 'cyber reservists' to defend national security, while speaking at a Conservative Party Conference. However, there are no signs of where that talent is going to come from.

Considering cyber-crime costs the UK around £27bn a year, industry experts are keen to see the government make good on its promises. European Managing Director of (ISC)2, Adrian Davis said: "Our Global Information Security Workforce Study identified a current need for security analysts, but the skills shortage goes right across the board. The measures taken by the government may reflect more about immigration policy than the shortage itself."

UK Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire and the Home Office declined to comment on the cyber skills shortage situation.

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